Sure NASA is an important organization, but as the program still continues to battle politics it may end up losing, as the House has now authorized a recent budget cut for their Earth Science program. As the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been facing some political fire, it was somewhat foreseen that some of the programs would get a budget cut. But the program which did receive the most amount of slash, is one that effects the planet that everyone lives on. As the organization defended themselves against the accusations that they spend less time studying space and more time studying Earth, the may soon have less of a budget to do the latter.
It was just a couple of days ago that the House authorized a cut of $500 million from NASA’s Earth Science program budget. According to sources, President Obama and the space administration were seeking $1.947 billion, which NASA felt they needed for their program, but that budget was not upheld by politics. Lawmakers instead decided that the budget cut of $500 million would be appropriate for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. Though this number is not yet set in stone, as the negotiations in the House are still ongoing and may be held over the next few weeks in order to get a finalized budget, the negotiation for the Earth Sciences program will begin with $1.45 billion, instead of the $1.947 billion. Though the House is planning to fully fund the budget for the commercial crew, a program which will affect SpaceX and Boeing, according to sources they are also considering cutting budgets for some of NASA’s other programs, such as the Exploration Systems Development.
Representatives of the House state, however, that this budget cut is not one in which the space administration is just losing a big chunk of funding, but rather a small difference between budgeting this year and all the years that have come before. The report from the House reflects that members have always decided to at least cut small budget amounts from various programs and allocate them towards other NASA programs. This year, as not as many other programs have been approved in full budget, the Earth Science’s program budget just seemed like such a dip. House Science Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith said that this year’s NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017, “restores much-needed balance to NASA’s budget while complying with funding levels set by current law. It authorizes full funding for the exploration systems that will take us to the moon and Mars as well as the Commercial Crew program. It provides NASA with a science portfolio that is truly balanced.”
But NASA’s Earth Science program is the one that focuses, obviously, on the planet Earth. Some sources are criticizing the House for choosing to make such a large budget cut to the program, due to its responsibility to keep data from Earth. As humans live on the planet Earth, keeping track of the planet is essential. The Earth Science program works to advance knowledge of scientific questions about Earth and its system, collecting data from the atmosphere, weather, oceans, land, ecosystems, and the reaction of all of it together. NASA administrator, Charles Bolden, said that it was critical for the organization to understand Earth’s environment, as it was the only way to take care of the planet. His defense of the space administration was in response to Ted Cruz’s criticism that the organization does not do as much in the way of space exploration, as it does for exploration of Earth.
Ted Cruz all but started the political battle that is still going on, most likely leading to the budget cut that NASA may be getting. It was Cruz who decided to challenge the organization on Capitol Hill, as he and the agency director discussed the Earth Sciences program. Cruz said that the core function of the organization was to explore space. He stated that he was concerned with the company’s focus, as he believed that it was shifting more toward the environment. Bolden disagreed and stated that the core mission of the company was to observe and study Earth, as well as other planets. He said that shifting their focus more to environmental studies was only to save money on the exploration of space. With climate change being such a big part of the Earth, today, many have upheld NASA’s want to spend more time focusing on Earth. But with Cruz being a supposed climate change skeptic, his challenge raised many eyebrows.
As satellites put in space by NASA supposedly have the best measuring tools and ways to keep track of Earth, many supporters were fighting against a budget cut. Though Republicans have suggested that some other organization take over the data tracking of Earth, giving the space administration more time and focus for exploring space, many scientists state that other organizations just do not have as good of equipment for the types of data that NASA collects. The administration provides information on data of volcanoes, algae growth, weather, climate change, and much more.
Though the accusations seem to reflect that the administration is not as focused on space exploration, their recent innovations have proven otherwise. NASA has been in the news often over their Mars Opportunity Rover, their SpaceX mission, NExSS, and more. Overall it appears that over the last year, the organization has been working incredibly hard to advance in space exploration. But as NASA battles politics, the budget cuts that they may get may force them to increase their space exploration missions, even still.
By Crystal Boulware